22 july 2008

Weidenfeld Scholarships support tomorrow’s leaders

You need the latest Flash installed and Javascript enabled to view media on this page. Please ensure Javascript has been enabled in your browser settings. You can download Flash with the link below.

Get Flash Player now

Maria Spirova from Bulgaria. A Weidenfeld Scholar.
Maria Spirova, from Bulgaria, is a former journalist who was so concerned about the level of organised crime in Bulgaria she decided to take a postgrad course at Oxford in Criminology.

Child poverty, climate change and organised crime are some of the issues concerning this year’s cohort of Weidenfeld Scholars, who have just completed their first year of study at Oxford University.

Named in honour of Lord Weidenfeld, who has been responsible for some of the University's most important benefactions, the Weidenfeld Scholarships were officially launched in March 2007 to provide financial support to outstanding graduates pursuing postgraduate studies at Oxford. The Scholars are also selected for their proven commitment to promoting social, economic and political development in their own countries and their potential as future leaders in their chosen careers.

The first-year group of 11 male and six female Scholars are aged between 21 and 37 and are drawn from 12 countries (Kyrgyzstan, Croatia, Azerbaijan, Israel, Belarus, Lebanon, Slovakia, Georgia, Egypt, Bulgaria, Turkey, and Bosnia and Herzegovina).

They include Ina Zharkevich, a bright young woman from Belarus, who has completed the first year of her MPhil in Development Studies and is now undertaking field work and research in Nepal, on the subject of former child soldiers in the Maoist Army; Elnur Eyvazov, a distinguished former lecturer on disability rights law, international law and legal ethics at the Law Faculty of Baku State University in Azerbaijan who has a strong interest in improving legal mechanisms in Azerbaijan; and Kadir Unutulmaz, a brilliant MPhil student focusing on migration, immigrant integration and the politics of multiculturalism who was recently chosen by a professor from his native Turkey as an ‘emerging leader’ in the field of migration and integration, and accepted as Turkey’s sole representative at the First Transatlantic Forum on Migration and Integration, taking place in July in Germany. 

The Weidenfeld Scholarships and Leadership Programme is an initiative of Lord Weidenfeld’s London-based think tank, the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, which works with leaders in business, politics and the media to bridge international and inter-communal divides. A special feature of the Weidenfeld Scholarships is the range of leadership development and mentoring activities.

It has truly been a moving experience for me - and the fulfilment of a lifelong dream - to help form a cadre of future leaders from parts of the world where educational and leadership opportunities have not always been abundant

Lord Weidenfeld

This year the extra-curricular programme included a visit to Northern Ireland, hosted by the Secretary of State, the Rt Hon Shaun Woodward MP, to learn about the conflict and the successful peace-building process in the province. The Scholars also learned important skills through the organisation of a seminar series, which featured distinguished international guest speakers including Larry Sanger, founder of Wikipedia, and Filip Dimitrov, former Prime Minister of Bulgaria.

In April 2008, 11 male and 17 female Scholars were selected for the 2008-9 cohort, joining five Scholars from 2007-8 who are continuing their studies at Oxford. These outstanding new Scholars range in age from 22 to 30 and hail from 17 countries including Jordan. Russia, Slovenia, Tajikistan and Ukraine. Five Scholars from the United States have also been selected in order to promote transatlantic networking amongst these future young leaders.

Lord Weidenfeld said: ‘ With the recent selection by a distinguished international panel of the second cohort of Weidenfeld Scholars, an experiment has become reality.  It has truly been a moving experience for me - and the fulfilment of a lifelong dream - to help form a cadre of future leaders from parts of the world where educational and leadership opportunities have not always been abundant. Getting to know the impressive qualifications and outstanding characters of these talented young people has convinced me that the Institute for Strategic Dialogue and Oxford University are every bit as fortunate as the Scholars themselves to be part of this special relationship.’

The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford, Dr John Hood, said: ‘We are enormously grateful to the Institute for Strategic Dialogue for procuring this generous support. The financial support has enabled these young people to pursue their academic goal and benefit from the leadership programme. We are delighted that this programme is set to expand over the next few years, ensuring that Oxford continues to play a major role in educating and cultivating future leaders.’

The Weidenfeld Scholarships are designed to complement the University’s existing range of scholarships, including the famous Rhodes Scholarships. The Scholars receive financial support to cover all University tuition fees and living costs - amounting to approximately £25,000 per annum for each student. The scheme also provides the Scholars with an array of extra-curricular leadership level activities.